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Ruth Johnson Colvin

Many of us have been inspired by Ruth Johnson Colvin, founder of Literacy Volunteers of America and co-founder of ProLiteracy. Her tutor training materials have guided our day-to-day work and her advocacy has paved the way for our local literacy efforts.  From a young age, Ruth realized the importance of overcoming barriers to pursue an education. In 1961, living in Syracuse with her beloved husband Bob, Ruth learned that 11,000 people in Onondaga County were functionally illiterate. Shocked by this statistic, she reached out to a number of local community groups. Eventually, armed with a background in business but no teaching experience, she agreed to lead efforts to develop a local literacy organization. Her commitment to educating herself and connecting with experts in the field, led to enormous growth. A decade later the local literacy effort Ruth spearheaded had expanded into a national organization with more than 1,000 chapters. Visiting more than 60 countries, Ruth has impacted and guided the field of adult literacy on an international level. Among other awards and honorary degrees, Ruth received the President’s Volunteer Action Award in 1987, was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame in 1993, and was the only woman to receive the 2006 Presidential Medal of Freedom. We are honored that Ruth is here today, to help to help us kick off our Winter Virtual Conference.